Readers' Letters, January 1995, January 1995
I was thrilled to read the article on Stirling Moss in your November issue of Motor Sport, which a friend had sent to me in Germany because of this very article. Like many of my generation, I have always regarded Moss as one of the top three or four drivers of all time, and it was comforting to read that his bad luck in not winning the world championship at least once is of far less consequence to him personally than it is to his many fans. I was at Stowe School from 1946-50 with Silverstone four miles across the fields, and it was there in 1949 that I first saw Moss at close quarters in the pits. He was then driving some tiny Formula something car and, at the age of 19, already a national figure. Even to a spotty fifteen-year old, the dynamism and professional dedication was plain to see.
The last photo in your article is of Moss during the 1000km race at the Nurburgring in an Aston Martin. This was in June 1959 (not 1954, as the caption states). I watched the race from the pits, and one incident alone stands out as truly indicative of Moss’ brilliance. It was a Le Mans start, and Moss got away very fast from the pole position. From a photo in my album I see he was already thirty yards down the track as the other cars were beginning to move. I forget how long a Nurburgring lap took in those days, but it must have been thirteen to fourteen minutes. At the end of the lap Moss came screaming past the grandstands completely on his own. We waited an eternity — fifteen seconds to be precise — and only then did the rest of the field come past. To the astonishment of the vast German crowd, Stirling in one lap had taken fifteen seconds off some of the best drivers of his generation, including Tony Brooks, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Jean Behra etc.
The second photo I have of this race shows Moss leaving the pits for the last time a few seconds down on Hill after co-driver ‘Fearless’ Jack Fairman had had a minor encounter with a ditch. Stirling, needless to say, went on to win. Another feat, of course, was Moss’ great win in the 1955 Mille Miglia with DSJ as navigator, average speed a mindboggling ninety-nine point something mph. Three years after this I drove several hundred kilometres over the really tortuous part of this Brescia-Rome-Brescia race in the Apennines north of Rome. Unfortunately for the passenger’s peace of mind (me) my pal had previously read a piece in Motor Sport about how DSJ in his own Porsche had followed Moss and Behra, also in Porsches, on a journey across France. DSJ had noted that Moss and Behra had hardly used their brakes at all, resorting to far less bourgeois techniques for slowing down their cars when necessary. In other words, my pal (who had done some sports car racing in a Lotus at Mallory Park, Brands Hatch etc) was really trying on this section of the Mille Miglia, and it brought home to me at what an incredible speed Moss must have driven on that famous occasion, even allowing for the fact that the roads south of Brescia are flat and straight and helped to put up the average.
How piquant that Michael Schumacher should dedicate his world championship to Ayrton Senna.
After what he judged to be a decent interval Senna admitted that he deliberately caused the notorious crash with Prost. For how long will Schumacher keep us waiting?
It is pleasing to see that Schumacher has maintained tradition with such style. For those who have not been paying attention; it has become traditional for F1’s current ‘golden boy’ to eliminate another driver by collision in either the final or the penultimate race of the season. In its purest form the venue should be the final race, and the collision should be with the main protagonist to decide the championship; thus Schumacher has satisfied all criteria at the highest level. It may be churlish to be critical but it could be pointed out that the tradition has been upheld, in the past, with far greater alacrity — on occasion not even a whole racing lap has been required.
The main tradition has spawned some satellite traditions. One is with the pundits. The commentators have a problem, since throughout the season they have extolled the virtues of the current ‘golden boy’, but their live broadcast will include a description of the collision which will inevitably imply that their hero is the culprit. The commentator’s function is now to transfer the blame to the other party and, by use of a logic whose basis seems to be that ‘golden boy’ has absolute right to any part of the track at all times, by the end of their commentary they have usually succeeded, at least to their own satisfaction. There are some minor requirements within this tradition; the commentators will never suggest that the spectators (and all others who have a real interest) have been provided with short measure, or that the eliminated driver’s CV and his team’s record will probably be short of a result that their performances merit.
It must be observed that the second string drivers have sometimes risen to the occasion and, freed from the provisions of the tradition, have provided us with some excellent motor racing, rather than the high-speed procession that is our usual fare.
The final tradition is in many ways the most important. Officials of the FIA meet several days after the event. It is now that a supply of soft sand is needed; with heads buried and tail feathers in the air the officials will weather the storm, and thus we will probably be treated to a re-run of this unedifying tradition next year.
P J Huston,
It is a reflection on MOTOR SPORT’S status as the ‘journal of record’ that I write to make some minor corrections to your otherwise excellent report of the 1994 Tindle Newspapers RAC Veteran Car Run.
The correct number of entries on recent Brighton Runs has been as follows: 1990, 468; 1991, 478; 1992, 473; 1993, 462. The number of finishers this year was 363. I think confusion may have arisen because some entrants, having reached the Pylons before 4pm and therefore qualified as finishers, did not proceed to Madeira Drive, there to be recorded by the eagle eye of WB.
For the record, the following cars listed by Motor Sport as non-finishers did in fact qualify for their bronze medals: D K Harper, De Dion; J Guinness, Clement-Panhard; J Conant, Autocar; R Carr. Northern; D Burgess-Wise, De Dion; R Peek, Pope-Tribune; R Banner, De Dion; M G Rothschild, Rambler; P Beckwith, Crestmobile; M Goding, De Dion; R D Morrison, Cadillac; J Boland, Ford: R V Taylor, Autocar.
Communications Manager, RACMSA.
I took the entries, as distinct from starters, from the official 1990-93 programmes; that for 1994 lists 460. Our list of finishers was given as provisional, but was taken from an RACMSA Press hand-out, supplied very expeditiously I may say. I would certainly not presume to act as a “teller”, but if I had been counting them in, Madeira Drive would surely have been the place to be, because another official hand-out said the drivers had to get there by 16.00hrs to qualify for a medal. I noted this change in the rules in my report, the Pylons having previously been the qualifying place. Maybe someone else, not WB, was confused; the discrepancy between the list of provisional non-finishers and the corrections Colin Wilson now provides suggests this possibility? However, apologies to those listed as provisional non-finishers! – WB